The Knights were knocked down by Guelph, the first OHL colossus they faced this week.
But the next two giants in line found themselves flat on their backs.
London slayed Saginaw and Ottawa on consecutive days, capping their measuring-stick run of heavyweight foes Saturday with a 5-3 victory over the Eastern Conference-leading 67’s before 9,036 at Budweiser Gardens.
They did it wearing their Spider-Knight eggplant-and-teal threads from the 1990s, too. They weren’t at the top of the league too often back in those pre-Hunter Era days, but they’re right there now.
London closed to within three points behind Ottawa for first overall and still has three games in hand. The Knights end their busy stretch in Kitchener Sunday afternoon, while the 67’s take on the Storm.
“I think it’s a big win,” London goaltender Joseph Raaymakers said. “It’s a step in the right direction. It’s been an (important) weekend and that’s the way we want to play.”
Skilled and speedy, with a sprinkle of scrappy, too.
Raaymakers, one of the more laid-back individuals you will ever meet, had his fill of being poked at by enemy sticks shortly after the visitors pulled even midway through the third period. So he went after the biggest Barber Pole to test his patience – 6-foot-6 d-man Kevin Bahl – and started a major scrum.
Both were penalized and while Ottawa’s trusty rearguard was in the box, the Knights scored twice in 44 seconds on odd-man rushes to sink the 67’s.
“I was just trying to protect my crease,” the overage stopper said. “At the same time, I can’t let my emotions get the best of me. I have to be careful with that and I’ll be better with that.
“My job is to stop pucks. It’s a matter of staying calm.”
Kevin Hancock, London’s big deadline pick-up, buried a feed from stay-at-home defender Riley Coome to restore the lead.
“In 4-on-4, there’s more space to make more plays,” the 20-year-old centre said. “There was a lucky bounce off their missed shot and Coome made a great pass back to me.
“It was a good play by him jumping up in the rush. It’s a good win for us. They got close at the end and we learned how to win a close game (against a top team). It’s huge for us moving forward.”
TRICKY APPLE: Josh Nelson provided the quick-strike insurance, converting a heady back pass from Knights captain Evan Bouchard on another rush.
It fooled Ottawa’s defenders and his Canadian world junior mate Mikey DiPietro.
“I liked his set-up to it,” London assistant coach Dylan Hunter said. “In the first period, he held a toe-drag out and walked around the D for a scoring chance. This was the same play, so they were expecting that walk-out and he changed it up.
“He’s baiting people.”
His teammates also appreciated the mind games their leader is able to perform against good competition.
“He’s just a great hockey player,” Hancock said. “He can make those change-up plays. He’s a really skilled player and we’ve seen it through his whole OHL career.”
SPECIAL TEAMS: The Knights held Ottawa scoreless on four power-play attempts – the most critical a really early 5-on-3 that lasted for over a minute.
“That was the game,” 67’s bench boss Andre Tourigny said. “We didn’t score on our power play and they did on theirs (Connor McMichael’s first of two tallies). They also got two goals at 4-on-4. I think at 5-on-5 we were pretty good. We didn’t play well enough on special teams.”
TYE-D IN A KNOT: Ottawa veteran star Tye Felhaber’s statistics are eye-popping. He already has 46 goals. If he keeps up this pace, he’s well on his way to 60.
But the Knights held him pointless and handed him a minus-two rating with only three shots on goal.
He didn’t register a point against London back in October, either.
They stopped his personal 15-game point streak, which included 22 goals and 33 points. London is also home to the end of Sarnia forward Hugo Leufvenius’ league-best 19-game run, which evaporated at the Bud on New Year’s Eve.
“Felhaber is a great player and we obviously see his point totals,” Raaymakers said. “That’s a great team over there and we played really tight on D against them. We blocked a lot of shots and our penalty kill was great.”
The checking line of Billy Moskal, Cole Tymkin and Alex Turko deserve some credit for streak-busting too.
“It’s not easy to go out there and shut a guy down,” Dylan Hunter said. “It’s not the most fun way to play 60 minutes but they took it in stride.”
AROUND THE RINK: McMichael’s second goal triggered free Big Macs for the crowd, the sixth time he has cashed in on the scorer-within-a-two-minute-span McDonad’s promotion . . . Trent McGrail served as Raaymakers’ backup Saturday with Jordan Kooy suffering an injury before on-ice warmup. He is listed as day-to-day so there is a good chance Raaymakers plays in all four games this week. “It just kind of flared up on Jordan,” Dylan Hunter said. “It’s very minor. We’ll see how he is after treatment (Sunday).” McGrail, who plays Junior B for Komoka this season, has been a trusted emergency fill-in. “He’s good about it,” Hunter said. “He was ready to go (on short notice).” . . . DiPietro made just his second start in Ottawa garb. The first was over a month ago, a win against Gatineau, so this was his first against an actual OHL foe. He was still wearing his world junior padding. “Credit to him because he didn’t have a practice (since Team Canada),” Tourigny said. “He joined the team (Friday in Sarnia) and we didn’t have a morning skate because of the Silver Stick (tournament there). He had a warmup yesterday and today. It was a tough situation for him but good for us to have him with the team and get going.” DiPietro is 1-3 against London this season . . . Raaymakers accidentally kicked Ottawa forward Graeme Clark in the dying seconds while looking to clear a puck. “I was falling back and my stick swung and it was a total accident” he said. “If I could I would apologize to him. There was no intent at all.”. . . The Knights and 67’s observed a moment of silence for the victims of the fatal bus crash at Westboro Station in Ottawa Friday.
Knights 5, 67’s 3
London goals: Connor McMichael (2), Kevin Hancock, Josh Nelson, Liam Foudy.
Ottawa goals: Sasha Chmelevski, Kyle Maksimovich, Sam Bitten
Next: The Knights are in Kitchener Sunday, 2 p.m. at the Memorial Auditorium.
At Budweiser Gardens
Knights 5, 67’s 3
1. Connor McMichael, Knights.
2. Evan Bouchard, Knights.
3. Alec Regula, Knights.
1. London, McMichael 26 (Boqvist, Bouchard) 4:29 (pp)
Brilliant feed from the point.
Penalties – Hancock, Ldn (hooking) 0:45 Lochead, Ldn (tripping) 1:42, Hoelscher, Ott (roughing) 3:43 Peric, Ott (holding) 8:12, Coome Ldn (tripping) 14:11, Clarke, Ott (holding) 15:54.
2. London, McMichael 27 (Cotter, J. Keane) 7:15
Rebound at DiPietro’s doorstep.
3. Ottawa, Chmelevski 13 (Clark) 8:52
Walked into loose puck.
Penalties – None.
4. Ottawa, Maksimovich 24 (Chmelevski, Clark) 7:37
Banged in rebound.
5. London, Hancock 34 (Coome) 9:21
Fired high on 3-on-1.
6. London, Nelson 13 (Bouchard) 10:05
Nifty back pass from Bouchard.
7. Ottawa, Bitten 9 (Okhotyuk) 11:14
Parked in front.
8. London, Foudy 17 (Bouchard) 18:45 (en, sh)
Put it away.
Penalties – Bahl, Ott (slashing), Raaymakers, Ldn (roughing) 8:26, Regula, Ldn (holding) 17:28.
Shots on goal by
Ottawa 10 6 9—25
London 13 7 9—29
Goal: Ottawa: DiPietro (L, 12-10). London: Raaymakers (W, 18-6).
Power plays (goals-chances): Ott 0-4. Ldn 1-3.
Referees – Joe Monette, Mike Cairns. Linesmen – JF Menard, Brad Horan.
Attendance: 9,036 (9,036).
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